Little Time, Big Impact

As I left for work the other day, I had two large objects attached like Velcro to my legs. They were my children, 7 and 5, begging me not to leave.

“Don’t go, Daddy,” my oldest implored.

“Yeah, Daddy, stay home and play with us,” my youngest lamented.

I’ll say one thing for my kids – they know how to go for the gut.

I would’ve loved nothing more than to stay home and play cars, baseball or board games with them. Heck, I’d have even just sat and watched them play, in order to spend a few hours in their presence. They are my life.

But, sadly, it wasn’t to be. I’ve got to earn a living. And it wasn’t “Take Your Velcro-d Kids to Work Day.”

Like most parents, I put in a long day every day. Up at 6:30 am, I get the kids to school and my wife off to work, Then, comes my downtime. And by downtime I mean time to do chores, run errands and help prepare the house for the human equivalent of two mini-tornadoes.

My work life is unconventional — I work a night shift from 2:30-11:30 pm and that means I leave the heavy lifting of the afternoon and night routine to my strong, loving and understanding wife. It’s a challenge because I miss my family terribly while I’m at work. However, I love my job and my income provides a nice life for us.

My bigger challenge, though, is finding ways to consistently impact the lives of my children, despite the little time I have with them each work day. To do that, it requires discipline, planning and a commitment to discovering ways to let them know I love them and am thinking about them despite my absence.

Some of the ways are easy — a FaceTime phone call during dinner or bedtime or leaving them notes in their lunchbox or on their pillow. I always loved discovering notes like that from my parents when I was a kid. Sometimes just letting your children know that you’re thinking about them is all the work it takes to continue building a strong parent-child bond.

My job can be time-consuming or it can afford me down time. My work can also take me anywhere in Broward County on a moments notice, so there is lots of flexibility. Usually, that’s a blessing. One of the positives of that mobility is that I occasionally have time to race home for dinner with my wife and kids or, on a very good day, to make it to a sports practice or a Cub Scout meeting. Those are moments I live for. And when I can pop in, I let it be a surprise. The reaction I get from the boys is like a celebrity walking into a restaurant. The only thing missing are the paparazzi.

Even since my children entered the world, it’s been my goal to be an involved, active parent. In order to fulfill my mission, despite my unconventional schedule, I have to plan ahead and juggle my free time to be with them.

For instance, one of the things my schedule allows me to do is volunteer at their school. I chaperone field trips, help at classroom parties, speak at career day and assist with big school events. I also try to swing by during their lunchtime and sit with them to hear about their day. As I sit there, amid the cacophony of the lunchroom, I feel like a parent to all the kids in the class, listening to their stories, opening their impossible-to-open juice boxes and making sure their trash gets picked up.

Possibly the best thing that I can do is to be with them when I’m with them. That means putting down my smartphone, avoiding incoming calls and texts and focusing on what my children are saying and how they’re saying it. My limited time with them is precious and I don’t want to miss a thing. In those moments, I need to ensure that my boys know how I feel about them and that my words of love and encouragement are crystal clear. Even though they can’t see my physical being all the time, I want them to be able to feel my presence and support with them at every turn.

It’s also why our weekends are sacrosanct. My golf game suffers for it but my family game is in fine form, a testament to the time spent with my wife and kids reconnecting and enjoying our adventures.

At night during the week, when I return home from work, the house is dark and quiet. Everyone is worn out from another exhausting day. Before I crawl into bed for a few short hours of sleep, I tiptoe into my sons’ room, kiss them each on the head and tell them Daddy’s home and that I love them.

Then, I get a crazy idea. Maybe I should Velcro myself to them in the mornings and beg them to stay home with me.

(Photo credit: aarongilson via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND)

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The Beginning
About Happiest Daddy

Two boys, one wife and a ton of material. I live for family and I'm one of the most blessed people you will ever meet.

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